Landbank goals, policies

The St. Joseph Land Bank Board is still in early stages of establishing how the program and the board will operate. This week, the board looked at possible funding sources from the city to get started.

The city of St. Joseph could provide the funds that will get the Land Bank started on purchasing properties.

The Land Bank Board will eventually buy properties from the Buchanan County delinquent tax sale in order to clean them up and sell them to private owners so that they are back on the tax rolls and taken care of.

However, the board currently has no money and no source of funding to start buying.

On Monday, the board met to discuss the possibility of receiving money from the city, which had planned to provide some funds back when the board was first being discussed.

“City staff has identified three potential sources of funding,” Chair Steve Briggs said. “The figure of $150,000 total was discussed in today’s meeting by Bruce Woody, our city manager.”

Those sources include the city’s gaming fund, Community Development Block Grants and the landfill account, which has been used for demolition in the past.

Director of Planning and Community Development Clint Thompson said the City Council would have to be in favor of allocating any money, but staff is looking at using the landfill revenues and possibly a second funding source due to restrictions.

“Currently, the city is using landfill funding for demolition of structures annually,” Thompson said. “Looking at the current budget, the city manager is going to make a recommendation before the City Council for consideration to appropriate the usage of those funds.”

Thompson said those funds likely can only be used for demolition and stabilization, but gaming funds could be used for property acquisition.

Staff is currently investigating which funds can be used for what purpose and which funds have restrictions.

Eventually, the board is expected to make its own money, but the city is prepared to assist in funding and with administration for likely the first five years.

“I think the city is prepared to assist financially, obviously, in the short term because it’s going to be difficult to accomplish the goal established by the council to help eliminate blighted conditions,” Thompson said.

The CDBG funds, which come down from the federal government, are a possibility that state Rep. Sheila Solon. R-St. Joseph, recommended. Solon wrote and sponsored the legislation that allowed St. Joseph to create a land bank.

During Monday’s meeting, board members seemed concerned about using those funds, which could come with restrictions and obligations.

“It’s not to say that we wouldn’t use them, it’s just that the use of federal funds, justifiably, has a large number of requirements,” Briggs said. “We would have to make a decision on whether or not the requirements, or the burden of satisfying the requirements, outweigh the benefits of the dollars.”

Briggs said he would not be against the use of the funds, but wants the board to consider those possible requirements.

The board is still in the process of establishing official policies and procedures to operate by and decided not to vote on proposed policies due to changes made to them very recently.

They will meet again next month.

Brendan Welch can be reached

at brendan.welch@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWelch.